If you’re not seeing Idris Elba punch a lion in the face this weekend, some other films may catch your attention. This set of reviews includes a horror prequel, an oddball romantic comedy, a murder mystery, a kid-friendly superhero film, and an animated effort from Apple. The following features reviews for Orphan: First Kill, Spin Me Round, Delia’s Gone, Secret Headquarters, and Luck.
The Setup: In this prequel, after orchestrating an escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family from the murderous “child” at any cost.
Review: We should all just settle on being happy that Orphan made a return. Better late than never, right? The 2009 horror/thriller presented a creepy kid story with a nutso twist that helped turn the film into a modest hit. How does one repeat that magic? The answer is – you can’t, not really. However, with a story by the original writer and direction from The Boy’s William Brent Bell, there’s at least an attempt to do something with this prequel entry.
The return of Fuhrman is vital. Despite being older (yes, the makeup and trick shots don’t exactly hide it), there’s something neat about having her be of a certain age and reprising this role. It makes a level of sense given what we know about Esther and, if anything, makes her actions easier to swallow. That still means going through certain motions. A fun cold open that has her escaping a psychiatric ward leads to the standard introductions of the new family and grappling with this odd girl now being a part of the household.
The real joy kicks in during the film’s back half, as the tables are turned unexpectedly, and it finds Esther in an interesting game of murder chess. Finding bizarre ways to change things up in these films is apparently a big driver of this franchise, and I welcome it. It doesn’t hurt that Fuhrman gives enough to the Esther character to show that she can stand the test of time when it comes to newer iconic horror movie villains. Plus, Julia Stiles was somehow roped into this entry, and she seemed to fit in just right.
I’m not sure if there’s a ton of space still out there for Esther to explore, but given how well this long-simmering prequel has turned out, a second, or third, or fourth kill may be in order.
Where To Watch: Available in theaters, on digital, and streaming on Paramount+ starting August 19, 2022
The Setup: When an American chain restaurant manager is selected to attend a special training program in Italy, her head swims with dreams of European glamour and romance. But the trip turns out to be much different — and possibly more dangerous — than the exotic getaways she imagines.
Review: There’s a core concept here that is fun. What if Alison Brie starred in something that feels like a mix between a Hallmark movie and an airport romance novel, only to have it get twisted on its head by a series of comedic hijinks? That could work were the film able to overcome a certain awkwardness in its structure. Instead, this story never seems to lift off so much as it lays out several competing ideas that don’t come together all that well.
The setup is fun. However, Once arriving in Florence (and actually showing off the location), we quickly meet other managers. Among them, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods, and Tim Heidecker stand out as far as letting their characters (and presumed improv talents) spill out a lot of hilarious asides, physical actions, and more. Also helping is Ben Sinclair as a sort of guide/supervisor who looks like he stepped out of an 80s summer camp movie.
Ideally, the real win should be having Alessandro Nivola and Aubrey Plaza’s characters serving as Brie’s most significant sources of comfort and discomfort. Both lock onto her quickly, but we do not know their intentions. Nivola seems to delight in playing a guy who can clearly woo his way into relationships with many, yet has the right sense of aloofness to make him seem like trouble. Plaza is playing a typical sardonic role that she’s excelled at, which could also take a nefarious turn at any moment.
Unfortunately, this is not a film dead set on handling things in much of a straightforward manner. In addition to being a confusing rom-com of sorts, it’s also an attempt at screwball farce, and even a mild conspiracy thriller (with laughs). These could all go together in some crazy way, but director Jeff Baena never finds the right momentum to make it work. As it stands, despite the presence of several reliable comedic players, Spin Me Round never comes full circle.
Where To Watch: Available in theaters and on AMC+ starting August 19, 2022.
The Setup: Living with an intellectual disability, Louis (Stephan James) is wrongfully accused of the murder of his sister Delia and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Upon release, he is visited by one of the last men to see her alive, implying there is more to her killing than meets the eye. Armed with this new information, Louis embarks on a personal mission to find who is responsible for Delia’s mysterious death.
Review: While serving as an interesting performance by James, an actor who I believe to be quite good, this meandering crime drama fails to engage on several levels. As a mystery, there may be an urgency to what James’ Louis is going through, but never enough tension regarding the results. Meanwhile, reluctantly pitting a veteran cop (Marisa Tomei, complete with no makeup to help her stand out) and a younger cop (Paul Walter Hauser) together to catch Louis before it’s too late never pays off in a way that feels satisfying. Director Robert Budreau adds authenticity in how he shoots some of these vast Canadian locations. Still, it’s not enough to make the story play any better.
Where To Watch: Available in theaters starting August 19, 2022.
The Setup: While hanging out after school, Charlie (Walker Scobell) and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero, who happens to be Charlie’s dad (Owen Wilson), hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.
Review: Looking at the poster of this film reminds me of the spoof Adam Sandler posters in Funny People. I don’t want to be too mean to a well-meaning, innocuous enough kid-friendly feature, but there’s just not a lot going for this superhero-tinged riff on Home Alone. Catfish directors-turned horror/sci filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, are on board here to add a bit of edge, given the amount of violence presented to and in front of children. However, as far as finding the right ways to tap into the genre involving caped crusaders, it will only go so far if the kids aren’t making all of this feel worthwhile. Michael Pena sleepwalks through the film as the villain, but at least he can get a few good lines now and again. And, even if the superpowers on display have some ingenuity, there’s still more to be desired when considering how repetitive it quickly begins to feel.
Where To Watch: Now available to stream on Paramount+.
The Setup: This story is about Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada): the unluckiest person in the world. Suddenly finding herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck, she must unite with the magical creatures to turn her luck around.
Review: Perhaps there’s a way to make this story work. The first ten minutes and the last few scenes feel like the starting points all the writers figured out, and then it became a matter of filling in the rest. Sadly, a movie about why good luck and bad luck exist felt flimsy. There’s undoubtedly a game voice cast here, but as Apple’s first mainstream animated feature film, little else truly impresses. We may take for granted the effort that goes into CG animation, but I also couldn’t say there’s much here to make special note of. Comparatively, Pixar’s Turning Red from a few months earlier, truly breathes life into the characters, even when not dealing with the fantastical elements. As it stands, Luck is a movie with simple morals to take away and a fantastical premise that doesn’t feel nearly as special as other features dealing with young characters trying to figure out their place in life.
Where To Watch: Now available to stream on Apple TV+.